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The main way we've generated income during the last eight years of itinerant ministry has been through selling books and DVDs after our programs, plus the honoraria we sometimes received for speaking. Now because of my cancer diagnosis and our need to stay in one place for treatment, we are being forced to evolve from primarily itinerant to mostly Internet forms of evolutionary evangelism and education. Given that it will take time to build a viable Internet ministry, however, we still need to generate income in the next six months to help make ends meet. As one dear friend admonished,
Michael, for the better part of a decade you and Connie have been on a mission to ensure a better future for us all. You've traveled the continent non-stop living out of your van, with no home base, and you've made a real difference in the lives of countless people. Through your writings, websites, and presentations, you've been giving, giving, giving. But now it's time to receive. There's lots of us who would love to support you and your ministry during these trying times, and beyond. Just tell us how.
So here's the "Friends of Michael and Connie" vision in a nutshell:
We envision those donating to our ministry on a one-time or monthly basis getting special attention and opportunities to interact with us on a regular basis. For example, we expect to begin monthly teleconference calls with Friends next month, using MaestroConference (which allows lots of interactivity). In this way, Connie and I will get to share what we're most passionate about, respond to questions, and walk people through the volumes of cool educational/inspirational stuff on our TheGreatStory.org, ThankGodforEvolution.com, and ThankGodforEvolution.net websites. We will announce the dates and times of such calls in an email that we'll send out to our list in November. We imagine other benefits of being a "Friend of Michael and Connie" as well, but one or two monthly MaestroConference calls feels fun and easily doable in the short run.
For those who are not familiar with what exactly "our ministry" is...
One of the things I plan to do throughout this year and next (assuming I survive cancer) is interview and write blog posts about people that I consider to be Big Integrity leaders, or significant evolutionaries. A couple of months ago I introduced Billy Grassie. Today I'm writing about a dear friend and Great Story colleague, Craig Hamilton, founder of Integral Enlightenment.
I've known Craig for 6 years, since he was Senior Editor of What is Enlightenment? (now EnlightenNext) magazine. As I began writing Thank God for Evolution in the fall of 2006, I was led to start a men's STAR cluster, or deep integrity group (as I discuss in Chapter 10 of TGFE). I invited ten of the most amazing male evolutionary leaders I knew onto a conference call and to my amazement almost all of them expressed a strong interest. Given everyone's schedules, it was rare that we were all on the phone at the same time. But Craig was one of the 6-8 guys who met via conference call once a month for a year.
In addition to being a gifted writer and spiritual teacher, Craig is also a fabulous coach. One of the greatest blessings as I was working on my book, given the fact that I only had two months on Prouts Neck (the coast of Maine) in order to write the bulk of it, was Craig volunteering to coach me through the process. His assistance in keeping me on-track and productive was invaluable.
Over the course of the next two weeks (October 2009) Craig is launching an online "Academy for Evolutionaries" and beginning a 9-week teleclass on Awakening to an Evolutionary Relationship to Life. Knowing him as a man of deepest integrity and passion for life and evolutionary emergence, I highly recommend Craig's teleseminar. I also suggest browsing his website. You'll find lots of good stuff there.
The Big Integrity movement is about to burst onto the scene. A google search for "Big Integrity" today (October 2009) produced 515 results. I predict that by January 2011, googling "Big Integrity" will result in tens of thousands of references. Within five years, the results will be in the millions.
How can I be so sure? Because what I'm calling "the Big Integrity movement" includes everyone who is either working toward a better understanding of the nature of reality or helping humanity come into right relationship with reality. The movement encompasses the countless individuals and organizations around the world committed to ushering our species into greater alignment with objective and subjective truth—with the way things really are. Currently, of course, most of us don't see ourselves as part of a unified whole or worldwide movement. This will change...soon, I predict. In fact, the shift has already begun.
Paul Hawken points to what I'm calling "the Big Integrity movement" in his book, Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Social Movement in History is Restoring Grace, Justice, and Beauty to the World. His WiserEarth website is designed to help people within this movement learn about and connect with one another. Sociologist Paul Ray and psychologist Sherry Ruth Anderson refer to the more than 50 million Americans who identify with Big Integrity values as "Cultural Creatives".
Big Integrity is the art and science of coming into right relationship with Reality and supporting others in doing the same. It can be spoken of as "getting right with God," but religious language is not necessary and may in some circles be counterproductive, given the fact that so many people still have trivial, unnatural views of the divine. (Indeed, as I suggest here, atheist scientists such as PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins are playing traditionally prophetic roles in this process when they speak on behalf of reality.) Thus, I prefer thinking of Big Integrity simply as "being in right relationship with Reality"—both objective reality: the actual, physical Universe that dozens of scientific disciplines help us understand, and subjective reality: the inner realm of meaning, values, inspiration, and interpretation that has historically been the focus of religion, psychology, and spirituality.
At the end of August, just 6 weeks after Connie and I emerged from rafting through the Grand Canyon, I was diagnosed with diffuse large B cell lymphoma, with a large tumor in my spleen. Three weeks ago I began R-CHOP chemotherapy in Seattle. I'm to have six chemotherapy infusions over three months: every two weeks through the end of November. Then, if necessary, I'll undergo radiation or possibly surgery in December. Between now and the end of the year we're staying with dear friends on Whidbey Island who have an organic garden and orchard, lots of raspberries, and a great open view of the sky and the Olympic Mountains.
All things considered, Connie and I could not be doing better... Even though, statistically speaking (given the kind and size of cancer I have), I'll be fortunate to be alive in three years, we are living an extraordinarily peaceful pace of life and Connie is getting lots of creative work done. I'm getting some creative writing and organizing done too, but mostly I'm just taking time to read, sit in the garden, walk with Connie, watch David Christian's amazing Big History course again, and otherwise nourish body and soul. I'm also starting to learn how to do webinars and Maestro-confereces, and planning a couple of online courses I'll soon be offering (more on these later). I began losing my hair last week so Connie shaved me bald. All in all, we're having entirely too much fun (read on for juicy details)...
Wow! Richard Dawkins' new book, The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution is awesome! Dawkins presents a well-organized and compelling case for the fact of physical, biological, and cultural evolution, and he writes for the general public in clear, understandable language. I predict this book will quickly become a classic. ( Here are additional books and websites that I consider essential reading in this realm.) The last two paragraphs on page 426 brought me to tears.
Religious leaders should pay special attention to pages 7 and 8 and thus heed Dawkins' warning:
Two weeks ago (August 27) I discovered that I had a tumor the size of a squashed tennis ball in my spleen. A biopsy was done the next day at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle and the pathology report says I have "diffuse large B cell lymphoma".
UPDATE: Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow riffed on this topic as the title of their episode of their NEW WEEKLY PODCAST series, "America's Evolutionary Evangelists," launched August 13, 2009. You can listen to that podcast online, or subscribe to the free RSS feed.
Until recently, answers to life's biggest questions ("How was that mountain or ocean or everything created?" "What's real and what matters most?") and access to life's most cherished and important emotional states (trust when I think about the future, gratitude when I think about the past, inspiration to be in action in the moment no matter what chaos may come my way, comfort in times of sorrow or grief, etc)—for 99% of human history these fundamental benefits (what I call "core bennies") could only be obtained via mythic, dream-like, pre-natural stories. Now, for the first time in human history, we have meaningful answers to life's biggest questions and access to life's most cherished emotional states via measurable knowledge that can unite us rather than mythic beliefs that so often divide us. I predict that this fact will be among the most significant factors helping humanity survive its rite of passage into adulthood.
Two transformations in thinking are essential, it seems to me, to the process of maturing from childhood, through adolescence, to adulthood. The first is shifting from thinking that the world was made for us to celebrating that we were made for the world. The second is moving from belief-based views of the world to knowledge-based understandings informed by evidence, experience, and the perspectives of others. Most of us have navigated these two shifts in our own process of maturation.
As children we naturally think the world centers around us. As adults (assuming we mature in a healthy way) we quickly recognize that our own happiness and joy is largely determined by our impact on others and on the world around us. More, our success in life is largely judged by history—that is, by the legacy we leave.
Similarly, as children our beliefs are given to us by trusted elders. Evolution would have it no other way. As adults, however, we gain a wider perspective and come to realize that our personal understandings and interpretations of reality are not the only viable ones, and that we can benefit enormously from taking into consideration the viewpoints of others, especially those outside our in-group. Real knowledge, real intelligence, is a collective endeavor.
Much of the chaos that we are experience in our world today stems from the fact that, collectively, as groups and as a species, we're smack in the middle of making these two shifts. Ironically, it's the New Atheists who are playing a prophetic role of calling religious people, and religion in general, to "get right with reality." I'll say more about this in future posts.
Charles H. Townes, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1964 for his work with lasers, and who was also awarded the 2005 Templeton Prize for his pioneering science and religion reconciliation work, emailed me this morning to offer the following endorsement...
"I read Thank God for Evolution with much pleasure and interest. I found it to be a very thoughtful, knowledgeable, and pertinent discussion, covering challenging and important issues with scholarship and insight."
A few hours later, Charlie (who turned 95 last week) called me on my cell phone and we had a nice chat. I must confess that having an email exchange and a phone conversation on the same day with one of the geat scientists of the 20th Century was a real treat!
And for those interested, all six endorsements of TGFE from Nobel Prize-winning scientists (pictures too) can be found HERE.
Life is good!
I'd like to introduce a friend and colleague in the Epic of Evolution movement, William Grassie. "Billy", as he is known by most, is founder and emeritus executive director of the Metanexus Institute on Religion and Science. Metanexus currently works with some 400 partners at universities in 43 countries. They publish an online journal, The Global Spiral, with over 9,000 subscribers, to which Billy is a frequent contributor.
(FYI...Billy reviewed the original Counil Oak Books version my book, Thank God for Evolution, HERE. The Viking/Plume edition of TGFE includes references for all the quotes that Billy says in his review that he wished were there. :-)
I highly recommend Billy's website, especially his essays and book reviews. He's not only a gifted writer and one of the leading contributors to the Epic of Evolution movement, he's quite a photographer as well, as you can see HERE.
On a recent drive from Sacramento to Ashland, Connie read aloud Billy's recent essay/book review: "A Thought Experiment: Envisioning a Civilization Recovery Plan". I can't recommend this piece too highly. It's both a provocative essay and a great review of David Chrisitan's book, Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History. (In case you missed it, I wrote my own off-the-charts positive review of David Christian's "Big History" Teaching Company course a few months ago, which you can see HERE.)
Please do take time to enjoy Billy's thinking, writing, and photos. You'll be glad you did!
Until we appreciate what God has revealed in the last 200 years about how everything was actually created and why death at all levels is necessary—until we GET that—we can't help but belittle God and trivialize the core concepts of our faith.
For example, you can't possibly know how God created the heavens and Earth if you don't understand supernovas. You can't know how God created soil, lakes, oceans, and mountains if you don't understand glaciers and plate tectonics. And only by understanding extinctions and why they're essential for the emergence of complex life could we learn how God created us.
Moses, King David, Jesus, and the Apostle Paul couldn't have possibly known how God created everything. Prior to 200 years ago, mythic beliefs were as good as you could get. A thousand Einsteins living a thousand years ago—or even just a few hundred years ago—couldn't have known about extinctions, evolution, glaciers, plate tectonics, and supernovas. We needed telescopes, microscopes, and the scientific method before God could reveal those things.
* * *
Science reveals more of "God's ways", "God's word", and "God's will" for today than the biblical writers could have ever hoped to. And if any of them were alive today they'd be the first to shout "Amen!"
Darwin didn't kill off God. He gave us the first glimpse of the real Creator behind and beyond all the world's mythic portrayals of the divine.
Claiming that evolution is of the devil and that all the evils of the world can be attributed to Darwin, as many creationists do, is by definition blasphemous. It is labeling as evil that which is actually divine.
When we value what God revealed thousands of years ago over what God is revealing today, we inevitably betray our Creator. We also belittle the gospel, and we risk condemning our children and grandchildren to a literal hell on Earth.
Also see: Grand Canyon Revies, Part 1: Christians